Georgia Department of Natural Resources / Permit 15488

At least 13 critically endangered North Atlantic right whales died this summer, in what has been described as 'carnage.' The cause of the deaths is unknown, but at least three were struck by ships and one became entangled in fishing gear, reports Erik Stokstad for Science. Today, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the die-off to be an 'unusual mortality event,' which will trigger an investigation into the deaths.

Why it matters: North Atlantic right whales were nearly hunted to extinction — there were as few as 50 remaining by the turn of the century. Thanks to conservation efforts like moving fishing grounds and shipping lanes, their numbers had recovered to roughly 465 by 2011. Still, this many deaths in one season is "unprecedented," New England Aquarium biologist Moira Brown told Science, "the population can't withstand this."

Climate change? It's unclear why so many whales are dying, but trends show the whales have been following their food further North in recent years, possibly putting them in closer contact with fishing grounds and shipping lanes. Concerns about entanglement caused Canada to close a portion of their snow crab fishery in July.

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Updated 48 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 19,486,171 — Total deaths: 723,599 — Total recoveries — 11,822,887Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 4,989,976 — Total deaths: 162,304 — Total recoveries: 1,643,118 — Total tests: 61,080,587Map.
  3. Politics: Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid.
  4. Public health: Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective — 1 in 3 Americans would decline COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Science: Indoor air is the next coronavirus frontline.
  6. Schools: How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on — Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Howard to hold fall classes online.

Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid

President Trump speaking during a press conference on Aug. 8. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Saturday signed four executive actions to provide relief from economic damage sustained during the coronavirus pandemic after talks between the White House and Democratic leadership collapsed Friday afternoon.

Why it matters: Because the Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate federal spending, Trump has limited authority to act unilaterally — and risks a legal challenge if congressional Democrats believe he has overstepped.

6 hours ago - World

What's next for Lebanon after the Beirut explosion

Photo: Houssam Shbaro/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Beirut residents are still clearing rubble from streets that appear war-torn, days after a blast that shocked the country and horrified the world.

Why it matters: The explosion is likely to accelerate a painful cycle Lebanon was already living through — discontent, economic distress, and emigration.